What is an Arm Lift?
An arm lift is also known as a brachioplasty. It is a surgical procedure for removing excess skin and fat on the underside of the arm from the shoulder to the elbow. This gives the arms a slimmer, more youthful contour and helps your upper body look more toned.
Why Get an Arm Lift?
The most popular reason for getting an arm lift is that you have experienced dramatic weight loss that has left you with saggy, drooping skin. This excess skin on the upper arm can look flabby, which might be embarrassing or cause you to be self-conscious when you wear anything with short sleeves.
Dramatic weight loss isn’t the only thing that contributes to loose skin on the upper arms. Some people develop dropping, sagging skin in that area as a natural consequence of aging and gravity. Exercising regularly (especially the triceps) will keep your muscles tight, but it won’t fix excess skin or remove stubborn, diet-resistant fat deposits.
Along with removing excess skin and fat, an arm lift will result in tighter underlying tissues of the underside of the upper arm. This will give the arm as a whole a tauter, smoother appearance.
Who is A Good Candidate for an Arm Lift?
A good candidate for an arm lift will have realistic expectations of the results of the surgery, and will be in good mental and physical health. He or she should be undergoing the procedure for personal reasons, and not to satisfy anyone else. Non-smokers are generally better candidates for any surgery than smokers because smoking interferes with the healing process.
The patient should be an adult who is at a stable weight (significant weight loss or gain can alter the results). Even very thin people can be genetically predisposed to developing “bat wing” arms as they age, so they should not rule themselves out as candidates for the procedure.
A good candidate will have excess skin with poor elasticity on the upper arm. The most common candidate for this procedure is a patient who has lost a large amount of weight recently.
What Happens During My Consultation for an Arm Lift?
During your initial consultation, the Board Certified Plastic Surgeon performing the arm lift will review your medical history. He will evaluate the skin of your upper arm, discuss your goals, and possibly take some pre-operative photographs. The surgeon will then describe the surgical procedure and any pre- and post-operative care instructions. He will also discuss any risks associated with an arm lift.
How Do I Prepare for an Arm Lift?
Your surgeon will probably order some lab tests beforehand to make sure you are in good health. You will need to stop smoking at least six weeks before the surgery and for six weeks after. You will be given instructions on when to stop eating and drinking the night before the surgery. You might also need to adjust any medications you’re taking (especially blood thinners, aspirin, and certain herbal supplements) so they don’t interfere with your recovery.
Review any paperwork and post-operative instructions beforehand to make sure you don’t have any questions. You will need someone to drive you home after the procedure.
How is an Arm Lift Done?
Once you arrive at the surgical center, you will be prepped for the arm lift procedure and given anesthetic. The type of anesthetic will depend on whether you are having additional procedures done at the same time- your surgeon will help you decide what anesthesia method is best. The surgery itself will take between one and three hours, depending on how dramatic your arm lift is going to be.
The incision will be on the inside of your upper arm, or on the back of the upper arm, depending on your surgeon’s preference and your individual situation. The length of the incision is also dependent on your situation- the more skin you need removed, the longer the incision will be. It can run from the elbow to the underarm, or be significantly smaller. A smaller incision made just at the underarm is called a minimal incision.
Excess skin will be removed once the incision is made. Stubborn fat deposits will be cut out, or removed with liposuction. If necessary, the underlying tissues will be tightened or smoothed out with the use of surgical sutures. The skin is then tightened around the newly-smooth arm, and the incision will be closed.
What is Recovery Like for an Arm Lift?
After the procedure is over, you will be taken to a recovery room. There will be dressings and possibly a compression garment over the surgical site of each arm to encourage the skin to tighten over the area. Some patients will also have drains in place to help with fluid build-up. These will be removed in a few days.
You might experience some tenderness, swelling, and bruising in the first 48 hours after surgery. Discomfort can be managed with a prescription from your doctor. The swelling and bruising should begin to disappear after about two weeks. Any stitches that remain will be removed after one week. You will want to avoid strenuous use of the arms or hands for about two weeks, after which point most patients can go back to work.
Continue avoiding strenuous physical exercise for four to six weeks. Your surgeon might recommend a low-salt diet during your recovery process. Be sure to drink plenty of water to help keep the swelling down, and keep your arms elevated for the first few days.
When Can I See My Final Results?
The results of an arm lift are immediately obvious, but may be obscured by swelling and compression garments. Once the swelling and garments are gone, your newly toned arms will be visible. The results should last a lifetime, as long as you don’t gain or lose large amounts of weight. There might be a mild loss of firmness as you age, but for the most part, the results will be permanent. The scar should also fade over time.
What Are the Risks of an Arm Lift?
Like all surgeries, an arm lift has a few risks. These include bleeding, infection, reaction to anesthesia, hematoma, skin loss, change in skin sensation, skin discoloration, arm asymmetry, nerve damage, swelling in the hands, muscle damage, and dissatisfaction with the results. Your surgeon will discuss these and all the other risks with you during your consultation.
The best way to ensure that you are minimizing risks is to select a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon for your arm lift. Board Certified surgeons have the proper training and are up-to-date on the latest surgical techniques. They use high quality medical facilities, and first-rate staff.
Following all your pre- and post-operative instructions will also minimize the risk that you will have complications.
Will Insurance Cover an Arm Lift?
Most insurance plans will not cover a cosmetic procedure like an arm lift. Contact your insurance company if you have questions about your coverage.